A delayed reaction to The Force Awakens. With some (mild) spoilers.
January 13, 2016
This is a review, honest. If you’d like to skip straight to opinion rather than my personal history make the jump to lightsp… sorry, paragraph three.
As someone born in the late 80s, without older siblings or parents interested in film, and with no desire before my 18th birthday to seek out anything remotely cultural, Star Wars rather passed me by at the ages at which I’d be most likely to become a fan. When I was around 25 a good friend sat me down with a box set of six movies, and over two days I started to understand what the hype was all about. There were, of course, loads of things I hated: the prequels, as a whole (although not as much as most people), quite a lot of the first half an hour of Return of the Jedi (essentially whenever there’s singing), and the fact that I couldn’t avoid already knowing who was who’s father, sister and future husband. However, jump ahead to December when -after seeing trailers that excited the film-fan in me – I found myself genuinely a bit giddy at the prospect of seeing Star Wars in the cinema.
A long time ago? Tick. Big blast of John Williams? Tick. Opening crawl? Big tick. Star Wars: The Force Awakens starts exactly like every other Star Wars, but from then on it’s arguably more of a ride than any of the previous six. We return to a galaxy thirty years on from the destruction of the second Death Star, with Luke Skywalker in hiding and a terrifying new Order looking to control everything it can. We have Captains, Generals, Knights and Supreme Leaders taking pot shots at planets and people, and a resistance – with some familiar faces – doing its very best to keep us all safe. I say ‘us’ because really we all want to be part of the rebel alliance, right? I know the First Order might have the best tailor, but they don’t get to enjoy Cantinas nearly half as much.
Whilst our handful of returning stars (who really actually thought we’d see Chewie again?!) all give good game, and it’s already been said many times that Harrison Ford is having more fun as a borderline-octogenarian Han Solo than he has in decades, the new faces fit right into the universe. Oscar Isaac, the ‘galaxy’s best pilot,’ provides us with about 5 minutes of serious before giving Han himself a run for his witty money. It’s a pity there wasn’t more of him, but I get the feeling that will all change soon.
John Boyega and Daisy Ridley, playing a Stormtrooper and a scavenger respectively, might fly a little too close to each other in terms of character, but it never feels like they do anything other than belong perfectly within the world. There is a moment from Daisy’s Rey, as she sees greenery for what we can assume is the first time in her life, that stops you dead. In the middle of a ‘blasters and lightsabers’ epic we are treated to a genuinely beautiful moment of character, and one that pushes Rey to the very front of the Star Wars universe. Watch out for that Rey, everybody. She might just save the galaxy. And she’s almost certainly going to be dragging Finn along with her!
People have written that J. J. Abrams has brought his work on Star Trek (arguable aping the plot of previous movies) to this universe, rehashing A New Hope with new faces and hoping for the best. But, I humbly disagree. There are revelations, the requisite familial twists, battles on sand and snow covered planets, and mysterious figures plotting from afar. It seems to me that all JJ has done is revive our expectations with a loud, running, shouting, blaster-at-your-side film, and one that delighted and surprised me the entire time. It was exactly the palate cleanser needed after the, shall we say, “iffy”, prequels. We had to believe in lightspeed and CGI again, and we needed new stories to keep us on the edge of our seats. We got all of that and more, and without a single Jar Jar or CGI diva to distract us.
I am not in the least a Star Wars fanboy, but I feel like I’m not far off becoming one… bring on Episode VIII.